Florida Commission
Recommends Changes to
Lethal Injection Process


Maryland Governor
Martin O’Malley

Notwithstanding the executions of the rightly convicted, can the death penalty ever be justified as public policy when it inherently necessitates the occasional taking of wrongly convicted, innocent life? In Maryland, since 1978, we have executed five people and set one convicted man free when his innocence was discovered. Are any of us willing to sacrifice a member of our own family — wrongly convicted, sentenced and executed — in order to secure the execution of five rightly convicted murders? And even if we were, could that public policy be called “just”? I do not believe it can.

And what of the tremendous cost of pursuing capital punishment? In 2002, Judge Dale Cathell of the Maryland Court of Appeals wrote that, according to his research, processing and imprisoning a death penalty defendant “costs $400,000 over and above … a prisoner serving a life sentence.” Given that 56 people have been sentenced to death in Maryland since 1978, our state has spent about $22.4 million more than the cost of life imprisonment. That’s nearly $4.5 million “extra” for each of the five executions carried out. And so long as every American is presumed innocent until proven guilty, the cost of due process will not go down.

If, however, we were to replace the death penalty with life without parole, that $22.4 million could pay for 500 additional police officers or provide drug treatment for 10,000 of our addicted neighbors. Unlike the death penalty, these are investments that save lives and prevent violent crime. If we knew we could spare a member of our family from becoming a victim of violent crime by making this policy change, would we do it?

Human dignity is the concept that leads brave individuals to sacrifice their lives for the lives of strangers. Human dignity is the universal truth that is the basis of ethics. Human dignity is the fundamental belief on which the laws of this state and this republic are founded. And absent a deterrent value, the damage done to the concept of human dignity by our conscious communal use of the death penalty is greater than the benefit of even a justly drawn retribution.

(Washington Post, February 21, 2007).

Former Maryland Governor
Harry Hughes

Today, Maryland’s lawmakers face their own life-or-death decision. I urge them to take the only logical path and put an end to Maryland’s system of capital punishment.

I stand with Gov. Martin O’Malley in saying it’s time to give up on this failed policy. My opinion is that executions demean us as a society. I also join with the majority of Marylanders who believe that on a practical level, the system is rife with problems that cannot be solved.

The legislation pending at the State House would replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, a harsh punishment that would keep murderers off the street and keep us safe without undue burdens on law enforcement or victims’ families.

Finally, and most important, we must acknowledge that in any human system there is room for error. Again and again, we hear about prisoners freed from death row after being exonerated of their alleged crimes — at least 123 across the country in the past 34 years.

To those lawmakers who have supported capital punishment in the past, please consider all that we have learned in recent years about how drastically it fails in practice. Around the country, Americans are moving away from the death penalty. A recent New Jersey commission recommended replacing the death penalty with life without parole because it simply could not come up with a way to make the system work both fairly and effectively.

It’s time for Maryland to take heed and end capital punishment here.

(Washington Post, February 18, 2007).

See Recent Legislative Activity.